Owl transformation figure | The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
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Owl transformation figure

Owl transformation figure

Owl transformation figure

Clay and pigment

H: 7.5; W: 17.5 cm

Gift of Bee Hoffman, Jerusalem

Accession number:

B06.1843

Arts/Americas

Moche iconography is one of the most intriguing and dynamic systems of representation found in ancient Peru. Owls, nocturnal animals widely associated with death and burial sites, were represented in realistic and anthropomorphic form. A mythical warrior-owl was believed to rule the Underworld, to which he carried the souls of the dead. To this day, the staffs used by curanderos (healers) in northern Peru are adorned with the same type of carved owl described in ethno-historical accounts from the early colonial period. This owl imagery may relate to the “ecstatic flight” experienced by the healers during the performance of rituals.